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Many people feel as if they are floating serenely downstream. They work hard, but they feel like they are not getting anything substantial done. The main reason is that they haven't given serious thought to what it is they want out of life. They don't have a set goal to invest their time and effort in. Would you go on a big trip without having a real idea of what your destination is? Probably not!
How to set a goal?
Of course, the first thing to do is decide what you want to achieve. Only after you are clear about yourself and your desire, you can proceed to its realization.
Set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals that motivate you and write them down on a piece of paper. Feel them. This is your map to a hidden treasure you have yet to discover.
Plan the steps you need to take to achieve the goal, and cross off each one as they are completed.
Desire is direction. If you have it, you put an end to the confused wandering and walk forward with confident steps, not allowing distractions to sidetrack you. You know what you need to do and spare no effort. And the closer you get, the stronger your motivation pulls you forward, and the feeling of fatigue disappears.
Why set goals?
Top level athletes, successful business people and people who have achieved success in every field set goals.. Besides giving you a long-term vision, a goal helps you focus in acquiring new knowledge, organize your time and resources to make the most of them.
When you have a time-bound goal clearly defined, you can track your progress. You will raise your self-esteem as you see what you are capable of and what potential you have yet to develop. Set your goals now!
Goal setting is done in several stages:
- Create your "big picture" of what you want to do with your life (or the next 10 years, say), and separate the main goals from the rest;
- Take the time to mark and figure out which smaller goals will gradually lead you to the main desire;
Once you've created your plan, start working on it.
It is important to determine which tasks can be accomplished immediately and which to leave for further ahead in time. Make a sample schedule to get an idea of how to allocate your duties.
Step 1: Main objectives that can be achieved in the distant future
The first step is to get an idea of what you want to achieve in your lifetime. This gives you an overall perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision-making.
Try to allocate your goals into some of the following categories (or other areas that are important to you):
- Career - What level do you want to reach in your career or what exactly do you want to achieve?
- Financial - How much do you want to earn and at what stage? How does this relate to your career goals?
- Education - Is there knowledge you want to acquire? What information and skills will you need to achieve a specific goal?
- Family - Do you want to become a parent? If yes, how will you be a good parent? How do you want to be perceived by your partner or extended family members?
- Artistry - Do you want to achieve any artistic goals?
- Mindset - Is there any part of your mindset that holds you back? Is there any part of the way you behave that upsets you? (If so, set a goal to improve your behavior or find a solution to the problem.)
- Physical condition - Are there any athletic goals you want to achieve, or do you want good health into old age? What steps will you take to achieve this?
- Enjoyment - What brings you pleasure? (You need to make sure some of your time is dedicated to you personally!)
- Community service - Do you want to make the world a better place? If yes, how?
Think about which areas best reflect your desires and mark one or more goals you would like to realize. Then sift through them so that you end up with the truly meaningful ones to focus on fully.
Make sure you are aiming for something you really want to achieve, not what your parents, family or employers want. (If you have a partner, you should probably think about what he or she wants - but make sure you stay true to yourself!)
Step 2: Set smaller goals
Once you've set your long-term goals, make a five-year plan outlining what smaller tasks you need to accomplish that will contribute to realizing your main desire.
Similarly, create one-year, six-month and one-month plans that are made up of even smaller goals, which in turn lead to the completion of the medium-sized tasks in the above stage.
Finally, create a daily to-do list that you can do today. Of course, these should also lead to your main goal.
It is possible that at an earlier stage your tasks are related to gathering information, reading books, through which you can consolidate your knowledge necessary for your upcoming implementation process.
Review your plans and make sure they align with your priorities and the way you want to lead your life.
Tip: If you feel you are not paying enough attention to certain areas of your life, you will find our article on The Wheel of Life helpful.
Stick to the goal
Once you've allocated your goals, continue the process by reviewing and updating your to-do list daily.
Periodically review your longer-term plans and modify them to reflect your changing priorities and experience. (A good way to do this is to include regular check-ins in your schedule, recording everything in a computer log).
A useful way to increase the effectiveness of goals is to use the SMART technique. Although there are many variations (some of which we have included in brackets), SMART usually means:
- Specific/Specific (simple, reasonable, meaningful).
- Measurable (clear, motivating).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time bound (time-bound, cost-responsive).
For example, instead of stating the goal "to circumnavigate the world on a yacht", it is better to say "to complete my circumnavigation by 31 December 2027."
Additional tips for goal setting
The following general guidelines will help you set effective and achievable goals:
- Each goal is formulated as a positive statement. Express your goals positively - "Perform this technique well" is a much better goal than "Don't make this stupid mistake".
- Be specific - Set specific goals with dates, times and amounts so you can track your progress. That way you'll know exactly when you'll reach your goal and experience complete satisfaction when you do.
- Prioritize your goals - When you're working towards several goals, you can put them in order of completion. This helps to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many tasks and focuses attention on the most important ones.
- Write the goals down - This makes them clear and gives them more power.
- If possible, divide goals into smaller ones - If a goal is too big, it may seem like you're not making progress. Completing small and incremental goals will motivate and encourage you to keep moving forward.
- Set goals that you have control over - You should make sure to set goals that you can have the biggest impact on. Failure to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control can be quite disheartening! In business, these reasons may be brought about by poor business conditions or unexpected effects of government policy. In sport, they can include a bad refereeing decision, bad weather, injury or just bad luck.If you base your goals on your personal results, you can maintain control over their achievement and derive satisfaction from them.
- Set realistic goals - It's important to set yourself tasks that you can achieve. Everyone else (e.g. employers, parents, media or society) may demand unrealistic things of you. They often do so without considering your own desires and ambitions.
You may have thrown yourself into goals that are too difficult to achieve because you didn't assess the obstacles in the way, or you didn't properly assess what skills you need to develop to meet the required level of performance.
When you have successfully achieved a goal, take time to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. Consider how it will affect your overall situation and track your progress against other goals.
If the goal was significant, reward yourself appropriately. All this helps you build the self-confidence you deserve.
With the experience already gained, review your other goal plans:
- If it's been too easy for you so far, identify a harder goal from your list;
- If your goal has taken too long to achieve, choose an easier task to continue with;
- If you've learned something that would cause you to make adjustments to other goals, do it.
- If you have noticed a deficit in your skills even though you have achieved the goal, decide whether to address this by setting an additional goal related to your qualifications.
Remember that failure to achieve a goal should not discourage you, as it is the experience that is important.
Take what you have learned and apply it to your next goals. Remember that your desires will change over time. Adjust them regularly to reflect your increasing knowledge and experience, and if they no longer appeal to you, consider giving them up.
Sample personal goals
With the new year upon us, Mary has decided to seriously consider what she wants to do with her life. Her life goals are:
- Career - "To become editor-in-chief of the magazine I work at."
- Artistry - "To continue to work on my illustration skills. Eventually, I want to have my own show in our downtown gallery."
- Physical - "To participate in a marathon."
Now that Mary has listed her main goals, she breaks each one down into smaller and more accessible ones. Let's take a closer look at what her career goal of becoming editor-in-chief of her magazine would look like:
- Five-year goal: "To become deputy editor-in-chief."
- One-year goal: "Volunteer on projects led by the current managing editor."
- Six-month goal: "To go back to school and finish my journalism degree."
- One-month goal: "Talk to the current managing editor to determine what skills are needed to do my job."
- One-week goal: "To make an appointment with the managing editor."
As you can see from this example, smaller goals show more clearly how the goal will be achieved.
Goal setting is an important method to:
- decide what you want to achieve in your life;
- separate the important from the unimportant and not allow your attention to be diverted in another direction;
- maintain your motivation;
- build self-confidence based on the successful achievement of goals.
If you haven't set a goal yet, don't waste any more time, start now! When you make this technique a part of your daily routine, you will find that every area of your life is moving along, and you will question why you didn't take this step sooner.